Hot weather increases chances of tire failure
Drivers should always be aware of the condition of their tires, both to improve safety on the road and enhance your vehicle's performance. Once the temperatures begin to soar in the summer, properly maintaining your tires will also reduce the chances of that a tire will fail while you are driving.
Tires will have a harder time withstanding heat if they are worn out or not properly inflated. Gene Petersen, writing for Consumer Reports, says a sunny 90-degree day can heat pavement up to 150 degrees. Dunn Tire, a tire retailer based in Buffalo, New York, says these temperatures make it more likely that a tire will overheat.
Tires are also more likely to fail under certain driving conditions on hot days. These include travel at highway speeds, frequent cornering, and hard braking.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 11,000 crashes in the United States are caused by tire failure each year. These crashes are caused by blowouts, tread separation, or bald or underinflated tires.
The NHTSA says worn treads or under-inflation are the leading cause of tire failure. Underinflated tires also result in decreased fuel economy, longer stopping distance, poor handling, and uneven wear.
Be aware of the condition of your tires during the summer. By keeping them in good condition, you'll have a safer and more efficient drive.
Keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the easiest ways to reduce the possibility of tire failure. The NHTSA says tires kept at the right pressure will also improve your vehicle's handling and boost gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.
The recommended tire pressure will vary from vehicle to vehicle. This pressure is generally included on the inside of the driver's side door, and it can also be found in the owner's manual.
Tires lose about one pound per square inch a month, so you should check the tire pressure at least once a month. Although the problems from summer heat go away during the colder months, you should remember to check the pressure more frequently during the winter. The cold air will cause the air in the tires to contract, reducing the pressure.
Get a tire pressure gauge and keep it in your glove compartment or another easily accessible part of the vehicle. Check the pressure in the morning, before you take the vehicle out for a drive. The tires will heat up from friction with the road or exposure to sunlight, so you'll get an artificially high reading if you check the pressure under these circumstances.
Newer vehicles will have tire pressure monitoring systems to alert you when any of your tires are underinflated. Get into the habit of checking the dashboard to see if this warning light is illuminated.
Tires will also be more vulnerable to failure if they are severely worn. Once the tread has eroded sufficiently, it's time to replace a tire.
When the tread is down to a depth of one-sixteenth of an inch or less, the tire is no longer safe. One classic way to check the tread is the penny test, which involves inserting a penny upside-down into the groove. If there is space between the rubber and Abraham Lincoln's head, the tread is too shallow.
Many tires also have built-in wear bars that run perpendicular to the tread. When these indicators are at the same level as the rest of the tire, it's time for replacement.
Manufacturers will often recommend a schedule for replacing tires. The NHTSA says some automakers recommend changing your tires every six years, while others say you should not keep a set of tires on your vehicle for more than 10 years.
If your tires are wearing unevenly, you'll have to replace them even more frequently. The Car Care Council says you should get the alignment checked once a year to make sure the tires are wearing evenly, as unbalanced tires can wear down your struts and shock absorbers. This organization also recommends rotating your tires every 6,000 miles.
When checking your tire pressure, take the time to inspect the condition of your tires as well. Bulges in the sidewall, cracks, and other damage all increase the likelihood of tire failure.
The temperature rating on your tires will give you an idea of how much heat they can withstand. Dunn Tire says tires are rated A, B, or C; tires rated with an A will run cooler, while those with a C rating have the highest temperature during a drive.
Don't load your vehicle with too much weight. Too much cargo will exceed the tire's rating, especially if it is underinflated.
If one of your tires seems to be losing air more quickly than the others, it is likely a sign of a slow leak. Petersen says you should have the tires inspected if this occurs to determine if there is a puncture.
The valve stems may also be the culprit in a leaking tire. The stems should be free of any debris that might cause air to leak out, and they should also be securely capped. Dunn Tire says plastic caps are preferable to metal ones, since metal caps can fuse to the valve stem and make it more difficult to inflate the tire.
Your driving habits can also have an effect on a tire's condition. Don't travel at excessive speeds, and take corners and curves gently to avoid putting too much pressure on the tires.